“I get away from the crowd as much as I can. I want to do my own thing and get my own stories,” Don told me.
Don shared his story about heading to Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat a few years ago – a lifelong dream of his. Put off by the hordes of tourists snapping selfies within the temple ground, Don searched for a place that was hidden from the throngs of tourists.
Hiring a local driver, he was taken into a jungle village of Cambodia, over muddied potholed roads to a place where there was no wifi, limited electricity and only a wooden hut for a place to rest at night. It was here he learnt the true history and culture of Cambodia. Stories of war and death, a darkness lightened by the friendliness of the local people and the depth of their rich culture.
Don’s story reminded me of the true essence of why we travel. Not to see what has been seen by millions of eyes before, snapped by thousands of photographs and trampled by hundreds of footprints. But to experience a place afresh and to get under its skin. To meet the people who live there and learn firsthand what it’s like to truly be a local.
Which brings me to Iceland. We plan on heading back to Europe next year and I think it’s about time we went exploring in Northern Europe. Iceland immediately comes to mind as a top destination. With landscapes like this, who can blame me?
The gleaming northern lights, the striking white glaciers and the tumbling waterfalls cascading down in a mountain range of green – these are the images that immediately spring to mind. It’s a hiking paradise.
Finding the best places in Iceland
We might use an Iceland self-drive tour to map our route, but then we plan to explore the country on our own. We’ll hire a car and drive for miles, perhaps not seeing a single soul while we road trip our way around the island. Iceland’s population only stands at 300,000 or so after all.
We might read this road trip guide beforehand and heed some advice, but we’re looking forward to opening ourselves up to the wide open road and seeing what adventures lay in store.
Discovering a place for what it is
One of the best snippets of advice Don gave me was to completely immerse yourself in a place. By telling the story of how a place or a culture intimately leaves its mark on you, you can truly share a marvellous tale. But you need to be a good traveller to be a good travel writer. You have to be curious and observant of all the tastes, smells, sounds and feels of a place.
“Good travel writing is about the interaction between the outer and inner world and what happens when they collide,” Don said.
We look forward to seeing what will happen during our travels in Iceland, and to sharing these stories with you.